By Kevin Werner, News Staff
The Hamilton Children’s Aid Society won’t have to resort to unscheduled closures after receiving just over $1 million from the provincial government.
Dominic Verticchio, executive director, said the Hamilton CAS was one of four agencies in the province to receive about $4 million in transitional funding. He said the Hamilton CAS became eligible after balancing its books, including laying off about 70 people earlier this year.
“Our work is challenging enough,” he said. “It was welcome news for the short term.”
The funding announcement comes in the wake of the CAS shuttering its doors Oct. 11, one of five days the agency planned to close to save money.
Verticchio said the CAS will be using $500,000 for severance packages for the laid off workers. He said the over 100 people who turned out for the protest earlier this month will be recoup their loss of pay by working an extra hour a week.
“This has been a tumultuous year to say the least,” said Verticchio. “The staff has been professional, and very responsible to what has been a rollercoaster.”
TheOntariogovernment eliminated earlier this year $4.7 million from the Hamilton CAS’s budget over the next four years under a new formula established by the Liberals.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said in an interview recently the formula was agreed to by all stakeholders, including the children’s aid societies.
This year the Hamilton CAS had $2 million cut from its $48 million budget. Next year another $1 million will be taken away, followed by $1 million lost in 2015, and a further $700,000 in 2016.
To balance its budget, Verticchio had to lay off 70 people from its 375-member staff last May.
Currently the CAS has about 620 children under its care. Staff in the child protection program was not touched, however, the organization lost experience people from the support programs, administration and legal areas.
“(The funding) is a huge relief,” said Samantha Florento, president of Canadian Union of Employees Union local 3899.
But she cautioned the money won’t allow the CAS to hire back the laid off workers, nor restore the cuts to services that were previously provided.
“We still must get the government to look at the funding formula,” she said.
Since the CAS is facing further funding reductions over the next three years, more cuts, and temporary shutdowns still hang overhead for the organization.
“We don’t know what will happen,” she said. “More funds need to be provided.”
Verticchio said the Hamilton CAS is “looking good” for next year. Part of the reason is it will be able to tap into the other $500,000 in transitional funding to balance its budget. The real budget crisis, though, will come in 2015 and 2016 when the CAS has to find nearly $2 million in further cuts.
“I’m hoping there will be some changes to the funding formula by that time,” he said.
The cuts to the provincial CASs were prompted by a 2011 report from the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare. The commission was created by the province to develop and promote ideas on sustainable funding of child welfare.